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Harmsworth, Hearst, and the News
The majority of our republicans, accustomed to journalism as debauched by the Hearst dailies, find the British newspaper a very dreary does indeed. Advertisements burgeon on the front page; there is everywhere a dignified and matter of fact taciturnity, a kind of well bred reluctance to arrest the attention which verges on the point d'honneur. Of recent years Lord Harmsworth, Mr. Pearson, and the intolerable Bottomley have made a hearty and sincere attempt to remedy this; they have told a great number of lies, often on important things, they have raved and stamped their feet and babbled in the true Hearstian metaphysic, and in this wise many heads have been broken and many papers sold. But their energy has not created a movement: the main current of British journalism is placid and undisturbed, and in the mention of a double column headline its managing editors still find the potent smell of heresy.
For these reasons, it is not surprising that Great Britain, rather than the United States, should utter the first concerted prayer against a journalism which is, in the words of last week's British Press Convention, "little more than a monstrous invasion of individual privacy." That journalism is sufficiently isolated in Great Britain to make its proboscis glitter; in the republic it is always with us, and there is scarcely an important daily whose policy it does not mould and inform. We have developed, by our demand, a large class of journalistic ferrets with no art but that of intruding themselves where they are not wanted, no talent save for the wholesale violation of confidence and the ambiguous techniques of defamation. For one of these men the republic has reserved a special, an unprecedented kudos; his melancholy bray assaults us on the radio, his face looks out of a hundred advertisements, his every discretion and impertinence is read by all who have letters, and related to all who have not. On every metropolitan daily we support a corps of gossips whose function it is to invade the offices, the houses, the motor cars, the jail cells of the prominent and of the unvirtuous, and to record all for the delectation of the multitude. For one reader of the small boxes on Bitler's foreign policy and the mechanics of his dispensation there are a thousand glutted in the gore of Stasefurt hardware dealers and privy to the use of the Nazl truncheon.
We seem, as a nation, to have lost the capacity to generalize and the instinct to imagine. Our newspapers are not sensations, in that they do not deal in the unexpected. All is anteriorly familiar to the alert for our managing editors never print really important news until someone has shown them that it is important and our minds are already prepared for the impact. The American breed of journalism is the tamest in the world, for it never carries on the exciting warfare of principle, it is never inflamed by the ardor of a great cause. Mr. G. K. Chesterton points out that large playing blocks are devised not to startle children, but to put them at their ease; headlines modelled in their likeness do not quicken mental inertia, but play upon it in vast and obvious fashion. By all means let us have sensational journalism; sensational as the Irish journalism of Victoria's time was sensational, for by its aid we may stimulate the populace, if not to thought, at least to passion. But the tedious recital of detail, in type however large, can only distract us from the whole; we cannot at one time court irrelevance and desire a conclusion. The direct man is not concerned with looking through the keyhole, but with opening the door. POLLUX.
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